Chinese national arrested over theft of trade secrets from Houston E&P company

Hongjin Tan, a Chinese national and US legal permanent resident, was arrested on December 20 and charged with the theft of trade secrets.

The Department of Justice announced the arrest but did not name the E&P company. A quick Google search shows it’s Phillips 66. They have their head office in west Houston though Mr Tan was based in Bartlesville, OK.

Mr Tan joined Phillips in April 2017 as a research engineer in the battery development group. Prior to that he had spent over 10 years working and studying in California.

On December 12, 2018, Mr Tan announced he was resigning and returning to China to be with his aging parents. The company conducted a systems access review and determined that Mr Tan had downloaded files onto a personal USB flash drive. The company then called in the FBI. The FBI found an offer letter (in Chinese) dated 17 October, 2018 on Mr Tan’s laptop from a company based in Xiamen, China. As well as the usual job offer details, the letter stated that Mr Tan would be compensated 400,000 RMB (approx $58,000) for information already provided. Mr Tan had visited China in September.

Phillips has advised the FBI that the company has earned $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion from the sale of the product in question.

Last year, 7 people were charged with stealing trade secrets from another Houston company

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